Lessons Learned from the 2011 Great East Japan Tsunami: Performance of Tsunami Countermeasures, Coastal Buildings, and Tsunami Evacuation in Japan

Anawat Suppasri, Nobuo Shuto, Fumihiko Imamura, Shunichi Koshimura, Erick Mas, Ahmet Cevdet Yalciner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In 2011, Japan was hit by a tsunami that was generated by the greatest earthquake in its history. The first tsunami warning was announced 3 min after the earthquake, as is normal, but failed to estimate the actual tsunami height. Most of the structural countermeasures were not designed for the huge tsunami that was generated by the magnitude M = 9.0 earthquake; as a result, many were destroyed and did not stop the tsunami. These structures included breakwaters, seawalls, water gates, and control forests. In this paper we discuss the performance of these countermeasures, and the mechanisms by which they were damaged; we also discuss damage to residential houses, commercial and public buildings, and evacuation buildings. Some topics regarding tsunami awareness and mitigation are discussed. The failures of structural defenses are a reminder that structural (hard) measures alone were not sufficient to protect people and buildings from a major disaster such as this. These defenses might be able to reduce the impact but should be designed so that they can survive even if the tsunami flows over them. Coastal residents should also understand the function and limit of the hard measures. For this purpose, non-structural (soft) measures, for example experience and awareness, are very important for promoting rapid evacuation in the event of a tsunami. An adequate communication system for tsunami warning messages and more evacuation shelters with evacuation routes in good condition might support a safe evacuation process. The combination of both hard and soft measures is very important for reducing the loss caused by a major tsunami. This tsunami has taught us that natural disasters can occur repeatedly and that their scale is sometimes larger than expected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)993-1018
Number of pages26
JournalPure and Applied Geophysics
Volume170
Issue number6-8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Aug 29

Keywords

  • Sanriku coast
  • Sendai plain
  • The 2011 East Japan earthquake and tsunami
  • tsunami countermeasures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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